Quite a few years ago, I read a novel that happened to be set in Carcassonne. I love medieval everything, so the idea of a traditional walled city and citadel is pretty magical, and I decided I should visit while I'm here as it very close to the farm where Kelli has been staying for the past few months. I left Toulouse yesterday morning and took a train (just under an hour) to Carcassonne. My journey to the train was an adventure in itself, as everything was in French. I have been so bad with the planning this trip, and I didn't really bother to check out the metro routes to the train station, or anything like that, thinking that it would be easy enough. I forgot that station announcements and automated ticket dispensers would be all in French, and not have handy English subtitles underneath or beside like everything in French-speaking Canada does. But I actually figured everything out and managed the metro station and the transfer to the train station (made somewhat easier I'm sure due to the fact that Toulouse only has 2 metro lines - although I've even managed to get on the C-train going the wrong way in Calgary, which only has 2 lines AND is in English, so you never know). The worst part was actually getting on the train in Toulouse - there are a million platforms, with numbers only and no names of which trains are coming, and there are no announcements or anything when the trains get there. Also there are no attendants or conductors, or anyone to ask questions to. I was panicking a bit, since my train was due to leave in two minutes, so I randomly picked a platform. My ticket had a train number on it, but I could NOT find a number on the actual train. So I got on the train, and randomly parle vous englais'd a nice looking woman, who told me a petite peu, which happened to be enough to tell me that yes, magically, I was on the right train, but that I was not in the right car. I was second class, and she was first. Nothing on my ticket gave me any indication of which car I should go to, but the train was not full so I chose another and settled in for the lovely ride through the French countryside.
My hotel, the Adonis Hotel de la Barbicane, is at the bottom of the hill below La Cite (the medieval city), with the rest of Carcassonne (the main town) spread below. My hotel (which is not really a hotel but more like a budget residence hotel with apartments and studios) had strange hours, and is closed from 12-3 everyday. I arrived at 11:57 so had 3 hours to kill with my giant backpack. I was not about to climb the hill to La Cite with that bitch, so I wandered down the hill (less of a hill) to a cafe that did not have wifi, but did have wine, and ordered the soup du jour (because, as Danielle told me before I left, when in doubt, you can't go wrong with the soup du jour) and wine. And creme brûlée.
This morning I spent about 4 hours exploring La Cite. Originally a masterpiece of medieval fortification, the walled city had been besieged (a new word I learned today) many a time and was somewhat in disrepair until it was restored in the 1950's. It is now a world heritage site. Although the center of the city is now filled with many many tourist shops and cafes, it is still fun to wander around and browse. You can also pay 8.50 euros to tour the castle and the ramparts. I did, and recommend it, as I think I spend about 2 or so hours wandering the ramparts and the inside part of the main castle. I also wandered around the shops a bit, as I enjoy shopping. I bought a cute, cheap travel watch and some blanquette (which is a sparkling wine made in Limoux, a town right near Carcassonne). I actually had a fabulous 20 minute chat with the woman who owned the shop where I bought the blanquette, in which I practiced my French and she her English.
Now I'm at the hotel using the internet. I had booked a studio, but was upgraded to an apartment when I got here (which is nothing really awesome or anything, since all it has extra is a small pull out couch and larger living room), but it is in a building across the courtyard and out of the range of the wifi. So I have to wait until the hours that the main reception area is open to be able to come in and access the internet.
Tonight I plan to go and eat Cassoulet, which is basically a bean and meat casserole as far as I can tell (although I admit I have not done really any research on it). It is one of the traditional foods of the area, so I thought I should try it. Tomorrow I am off to meet Kelli and visit the farm where she has been staying.